How to Live to Be 100: 12 Mediterranean Habits of People Who Lived to be 100

Want to live a good and long life? Here are 12 Mediterranean habits of people who lived to be 100!

My grandparents on both sides lived long lives. And this goes back generations; my great grandfather till 100 and my grandfather at 104. I was very lucky to spend time with my grandparents but also other family members that lived long lives and witnessed first-hand their habits. Yes, some of this is due to good genes, but a whole lot of it had to do with their habits.

We often read about the longevity associated with a Mediterranean lifestyle, but I feel very lucky and blessed to have witnessed this lifestyle in real-life. I jotted down everything I remembered from living with my grandparents, great uncles and aunts in Greece. What did they eat? When did they sleep? How did they react to difficult situations?

Here’s what I observed:

12 Mediterranean Habits of People Who Lived to be 100

1. They ate a lot of plants and herbs.

I’ve mentioned the importance of consuming greens as well as herbs numerous times over the years. They drank herbal drinks such as chamomile, Greek mountain tea, thyme every day.
They ate greens such as dandelion greens, spinach and wild greens 3 times a week, and added plenty of herbs in their dishes.
* Drink herbal drinks at least once a day. Include greens in your meals

2. They had alcohol only with food.

They only drank alcohol (mainly wine or ouzo) with food. Alcohol is an enjoyment that enhances food not something to be drunk on its own.
I remember going to the town square with my grandfather, he would order an ouzo and it was always served and consumed with a small plate that had 1-2 olives, 1 piece of cheese, 1 meatball an a few slices of tomato, never alone.
*Always accompany alcohol with some type of food, even if it’s a few olives and some bread.

3. “Metron Ariston”

This expression translates to: everything in moderation and it was coined by the Greek philosopher Cleobulus. Yes, it is not exciting, but it is key in living well. This is a concept that was present everywhere in the life of my grandparents and others who lived long lives.
I distinctly remember my grandparents eating and drinking just enough, they never had seconds or drank too much. Same goes for activity, every day there was plenty of walking or bike riding, but not necessarily extreme sports.
* Be mindful of how much you eat and drink. Honor your hunger and pleasure, but also be good to your body.

4. They had a good relationship with food and enjoyed it without guilt.

For most of the year the diet was simple, and vegetable based, but during holidays and special events such as Easter, weddings, festivals they enjoyed meat (mainly lamb and pork), and rich desserts.
* Eat desserts and meats sparingly

5. They were mainly vegetarians and abstained from meat and dairy for over 200 days a year.

I’m referring to the religious fasting, that meant you avoided most animal products (with the exception of some seafood) for 200 days a year.
*Check out the fast here >> The Rules of the Greek Fast

6. They followed a Mediterranean diet.

You probably already knew this, they ate mostly vegetables, extra virgin olive oil and no processed foods.
Following a Mediterranean diet has been shown numerous times that it can protect from dementia and prevent memory loss and is associated with less frailty in the elderly.
* Start following a Mediterranean diet today, start here>>5 Easy Steps to Help You Get Started on the Mediterranean Diet

7. They took naps.

I’ve mentioned this before as well as in my book. Everybody (and I mean everybody) took naps.
* Get a bit of quiet time every day, even if it is only 10 minutes. Read more about the benefits of naps here >> Live Longer with the Greek Lifestyle: Take Naps

8. They used their brain.

They read a lot, whether it was newspapers or books. Played games especially backgammon and also crossword puzzles.
At the time television was not prevalent, in fact in Greece, television programs started after 5 pm and we only had 2 channels, so most people read a newspaper or a book.
* Turn off the tv and get the news by reading.

9. They had coffee time.

Coffee was not necessarily a morning thing, I remember my grandparents having a leisurely coffee after their nap, it was a moment of waking up, gathering your thoughts and starting the rest of the day.
Greek coffee in particular is rich in antioxidants and has been associated with longevity in studies carried out in Ikaria (a Greek island where there is high life expectancy).
* Learn how to make your own Greek coffee, click here>> How to Make and Drink Greek Coffee

10. They moved.

There was plenty of walking, bike-riding, cooking, cleaning, gardening -every day- I don’t remember them sitting down all that much.
*Choose an activity that provides you joy. Get up and walk every hour.

11. They moved forward.

It may sound easier said than done, but a common theme in my grandparents and relatives who lived long lives was not to linger and get stuck on things that happened in the past.
They did not seek out drama in their lives and many times let things pass. Recently I heard the phrase “Do you want to be right, or do you want to be happy?” and I think that is what they did.

12. They feel connected and have a purpose.

They have relationships with the community, or with their family in some way. I remember my grandfather from my mom’s side, once he retired, he became president of his local retirement insurance organization. This kept him connected but also provided him with a purpose every day.


Photos by Elena Paravantes All Rights Reserved

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  1. Crystal Lee says:

    I visited Athens in 2018. I dozed off on a park bench enjoying the peace and quiet. When I closed my eyes there were a handful of people in the park. When I woke up there were dozens, whole families. Napping on picnic blankets, babies in strollers. I was so confused and had someone explain the European siesta to me. Wish I could have brought that back to Missouri with me. No wonder other countries are so much happier and healthier than the states.

  2. Your blog and emails are an absolute joy and very informative. Thank you very much and your recipes are so easy and delicious.

  3. Elena, love this post! Just curious, about how long do you think your grandparents napped, and do you think they actually slept, or just rested.

    1. Thank Tina! We all napped, the naps usually lasted about 1 1/2 hours. Even today many people take naps and we do on weekends and in the summer. There is even a law here in Greece defining this period of quiet/nap time: it is between 3-5 pm varying a bit depending on the season. During these official quiet hours you are not allowed to have loud music or make noise.

  4. Thank you Elena. Do-able habits. I see some of these habits in my grandparents as well.

  5. Oh! even better, if you win a bit of lotto and live in Greece!

    1. Elena Paravantes RDN says:

      ha ha ha, yes that can help too!